The Floriade exhibition and Bhutan part 2.

An update.

Today we had a conversation with one of the people responsible for bringing Bhutan to the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo, the Netherlands this year. Next Sunday that expo will come to an end to return in ten years or so. As some (but not enough) people know is Bhutan the country with the largest number of refugees through ethnic cleansing per capita worldwide. On September 22nd the Floriade held a Bhutan Day focussing on the contribution of Bhutan to the world with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the countries rigid but nature friendly eco policies.

Bhutan House of Happiness:
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door, you didn’t know you left open.”
And so do human rights violators.

Main guest of that day was Mr. Dago Tshering, special envoy for the Bhutanese prime minister Jigme Thinley and the one responsible for the ukaze that started off the ethnic cleansing and many of the repressive policies behind that. A man with blood on his hands.

Our conversation was meant to get an answer to some questions concerning the organizers for Bhutan’s Floriade precence comments on the fact that they hosted one of the worst ethnic cleansers who is because of that in the eyes of many a de facto criminal.

We got our answer.

The organizers state that they are not in any way making any statement that they label as ‘political’. This means that they do not have any comments regarding the above and will not distance themselves from the presence of Bhutan and Bhutan’s special envoy of the prime minister, Mr. Dago Tshering. They acknowledged that they were in aware of the Bhutanese refugee crisis from the start but did not check the background of their honored guests.

The answer was not a surprise but is a trigger for further research on the financing of the Floriade event and the use of government and other susidies for presence and events on the Floriade for specific countries that are known for their human rights violations and by doing so passively supporting the governments of these countries to present themselves in a positive manner to the world without any discussion about these governments human rights violations. While the Floriade is partly subsidised by the Dutch government who in another capacity is taking the financial consequenses of keeping the UNHCR refugee camps and UNHCR third country resettlement project operational. Countries like China, North Korea and Bhutan have been present on the Floriade expo without any discussion on their human rights situation so far.

In the coming week extra research and the responses (or lack of that) from involved people like Mrs. Erica Terpstra (ambassador for the Bhutan presence on the Floriade) and long time VVD politica and the Floriade direction will result in an article concerning these matters and challenging the organization of the event about the human rights violations of their participants. Some information is already available including the answers to parliamentary questions regarding the €5,000,000 subsidy by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture for the Floriade and the skyhigh salaries of the Floriade board. More information will follow in the coming days regarding the flow of money.

Sometime next week such an article will be written and published in the media.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Advertenties

Dutch Floriade exhibition embraces human rights violator.

Note: today we received an invitation from the organizing committee of the Floriade to discuss our findings with them. Of course we accept that invitation.

On September 22nd this year a Bhutan day was held at the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo in the Netherlands. The day was centered around making the world a better place and the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness‘. Amongst the people present that day was Mrs. Erica Terpstra, a well known Dutch liberal ex politician who made a television program about beautiful Bhutan, its nature and culture. Next to Mrs. Terpstra, Mr. Dago Tshering was present. He holds a minister seat in the government of the small Himalayan kingdom.

Erica Terpstra returned home with the honor of having a tulip named after the queen of Bhutan presented, presumably unaware of the fact that she had been shaking hands with a notorious human rights violator. Because, who is Dago Tshering for real?

In the early ninetees, after demonstrations against the at that time already longtime ongoing civil rights violations, a process of ethnic/religious/cultural cleansing was started by the Bhutan government. In just a few years the civil rights and citizenship were taken away from over 20% of Bhutan’s population. Changes in marital and citizenship laws were cooked up to do that. Wearing other clothes than the traditional dress from the powerful ruling elite minority was forbidden and the Nepalese language was banned from schools and government organizations.

Through a policy of state terror in which political murder, random arrests, torture and years long incarceration of intellectuals and leaders from the south and east of the country, the population in those regions was oppressed. After violent attacks by the Royal Bhutan Army and the police against village leaders, their families and other local leaders, a total of over 100,000 and possibly 150,000 people fled the country. Many of them at gunpoint after being forced to sign papers stating they were voluntary leaving and abandoning their homes, land and possessions. The by far percentagewise largest exodus in 100 years really started off in the first months of 1991 after an edict written by that same Dago Tshering who came to Venlo in the Netherlands to welcome the visitors to the Bhutan pavillion on the Floriade exhibition.

Because, on August 17, 1990, Dago Tshering, then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan wrote a ‘NOTIFICATION’. It states literally, and I quote:

You are hereby instructed to immediately inform alls the gups, DYT members and the general public in your dzongkhag that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.

With this order to the Dzongkhas’s, Dago Tshering personally kicked off the ethnic cleansing that would in the end lead to the exile of over 1/6th of Bhutan population.

The Netherlands is, together with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, financing the UNHCR refugee camps in Nepal and the resettlement of the larger part of the population of these camps to these fore mentioned countries. By doing so the West is taking the rap for the effects of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing that was initiated and excuted since 1990 by Dago Tshering and the current prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigme Thinley. The international community has until now spend tens of millions of dollars on this issue and will continue to do so on request by the United Nations. The European Union itself has sourced the UNHCR at the end of 2011 with over 3 million euros for upholding the refugee camps in Nepal and taking care of the after effects after these camps will be emptied by the ‘durable solution’ as the mass resettlement is euphemistically named by the UNHCR.

Bhutan has since 1991 systematically refused to take a serious effort in repatriation of its own people to their villages and homes. The victims live in diaspora without expectations for return to their motherland.

In 2012 however, Dago Tshering is received and honored by the Floriade. There were no Bhutanese refugees present in Venlo. They were not invited by the organization and Mrs. Terpstra probably again had no idea what she was dealing with.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Bhutan lie exhibited on the Dutch floriade

Today was Bhutan day at the Floriade 2012 floral exhibition in Venlo, the Netherlands. A day underlining the message of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the king of Bhutan and his vasals like Jigme Thinley, the prime minister who are both responsible for the ethnic cleansing in the early ninetees in Bhutan.

Image

Early April our queen Beatrix visited the Bhutan pavillion on the floriade to consume the lie. No mention then and no mention today about the continuous human rights violations by the Bhutanese government. No mention about political prisoners, violence against the Bhutanese citizens, the abuse of civil and human rights.

Of course not.

Because like Mrs. Happiness Netherlands, Erica Terpstra (ex sporter, ex politician and derailed public figure), the local Rotary club, the many companies involved in trade with Bhutan, the Floriade organization and the royal family, do not want to know or hear about what happened in the early ninetees of the past century and what is still happening regarding the fate of the Bhutanese people living in the south and east of that country.

The Floriade is a money (greed) driven event where companies promote themselves in a socially acceptable manner. And so, all the people passing through the Bhutan pavillion and all the companies involved, prefer positive-only information. The receivers are switched off, the ears closed and the eyes blinded. Be positive, be the change, be this and be that, be positive and be happy, that is what it is all about in this positiveness show.

In another place on the globe tens of thousands of Bhutanese still suffer hardship in camps. With too littje food, a lack of adequate healthcare, hostility from the surrounding community, without rights, without citizenship, be stateless, poor and driven away from their motherland over twenty years ago. By force, at gunpoint and as a result of threats, abuse, torture and even murder.

In yet another place on the globe (actually many other places of the globe) people live who have been resettled and who have suffered the exile, the camp life and the hardship. And who have been enabled to start a new life elsewhere. Away from their country and region, their culture and their friends and even their families. Living in diaspora. They are the ones who are not seen at the commercialized Floriade event. They are the ones who are not seen by our queen or our crown prince who prefers to shoot bows and arrows with his Bhutanese counterpart. They are the ones without the voices and without the faces, without the power to stand up.

And it is them who we care about. The fact that their situation is largely unknown in the misinformed western world is the reason why we do our work. Why we make our film, have published our books and exhibit our photos. To advocate their rights to be like we are, human beings with their own place under the sun and the same rights as anyone else.

Come visit our exhibition in the Domchurch and buy our books. Help us to tell their story and capture their history, help us to not forget them and help us to delete the myth of gross national happiness!

UNFORGOTTEN photo exhibition
Domchurch Utrecht
September 15 to Oktober 26, 2012

 

 

How CNN does not do it’s work on Bhutan’s behaviour.

I am appalled by CNN’s lack of journalistic fact finding and truth seeking considering Bhutan. This is my response to the article on their website on the UN Happiness Summit:http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/01/the-u-n-happiness-summit
CNN published this blog from Stewart Patrick without any comment and without any hint of the Bhutanese reality. They are not doing what they should do on this topic as a free press organization.

The U.N. Happiness Summit

globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com

Editor’s Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. By Stewart Patrick, CFR.

My response:

Dear all at CNN, dear Stewart, dear readers,

I am flabagasted and to be quite honest disgusted by the onesided views presented in this article on this website. I am amazed that CNN without any criticism lends itself for the propaganda of the Bhutanese government. Let me explain.

It is a well known an proven fact that in recent history (early ninetees) the King and government of Bhutan have been orchestrating the percentage wise largest ethnic cleansing of it’s own population resulting in about 1/6th of the population being forcefully thrown out of the country. They have done so after a decade of discrimination, human rights violations, oppression including army killings, imprisoning innocent citizens, torture of political prisoners, stealing land, houses, cattle and goods. Of their own people living in the south and east of Bhutan for the simple fact that they are ethnically and religiously different from the Druk minority that holds power in Thimpu.

Over the past twenty years way over 120000 refugees have lived in and around refugee camps instated and maintained by the UNHCR without Bhutan giving any sign of allowing repatriation. Mr. Thinley, the prime minister, has been and still is the mastermind of both that ethnic cleansing as the cover up operation of the export of the concept of Gross National Happiness that te west has been all to eager to accept as a great way to look at what really counts in life.

Bhutan is constantly stating that Gross National Happiness is what it all should be about and is supported in that by the governments of the very countries that are now taking in 1/6th of Bhutan’s population through the largest massive third country resettlement project. Triggered by the US and executed by the UNHCR and IOM this resettlement program is in fact throwing the exiles from Bhutan in diaspora in a timeframe 6 or 7 years. It therebye passively supports the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing policy.

It is horrific to have to conclude that the free press is silent on this but is noise on the concept of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the government of Bhutan. It is downright disgusting that the UN is hosting an event to give this dictatorial government the opportunity to spread it’s lies and deceit while at the same time it is the UN that is shifting around 100.000 Bhutanese the globe unjustly.

It is also crazy to know that Bhutan is a memeber of the United Nations based on false data on the number of inhabitants in it’s country (when they joined they grossly overstated the number of Bhutanese to be over 1 Million whereas at the time any reasonable guess would have given a figure of around 700000 inhabitants which is under the minimal required inhabitants for a country to be a UN member). Bhutan has been living a lie since the 1980’s and has abused it’s population. It is in fact one of the biggest human rights violators when taken it’s size as a country into account.

When will the international community and when will the international press stop supporting the geopolitical framing of the Himalayan reality which is in fact one of poverty, unhappiness, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. As a writer, film maker and journalist I am apalled by the lack of journalistic fact finding and thruth seeking in this article and many other media considering Bhutan.

Yours truly,
Alice Verheij
director of the upcoming documentary ‘Headwind, the forgotten exiles from Bhutan’
the Netherlands
www.headwindfilm.com

Fulbright Program: US academic arrogance at work.

Sometime ago I wrote an email to the US Fulbright Program (funded by the US government) about a scholarship they gave to a scholar to study the conceot of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. Paid by them and thus paid by the US tax payers. As people reading my publications are probably well aware the concept of Gross National Happiness is a hoax. A cover up of te reality that Bhutan is in fact the country with the terrible history of being the percentagewise largent ethnic cleansing nation of the last 50 years if not longer.

This, dear readers, is the response of the Fulbright program to the questions asked:

This of course means that they simply do not want to answer the questions raised and hide their responsibility behind their acclaimed history as an academic organization of importance. Fulbright is with this answer the hallmark of US academic arrogance and certainly does not enter into discussions about theit granting policies in regard to human rights breaching nations. My answer to them is this:

My conclusions based on the response from Fulbright are obvious. These ‘academics‘ are disgusting and more interested in supporting human rights violating regimes than entering discussions about their policies. Interesting enough it is the same government of the US that is funding most of the third country resettlement effort of UNHCR to resettle the Bhutanese exiles who were exiled by the government that Fulbright is actively supporting.

That attitude reminds me of the books of Karl May in which the North American indians frequently state about their American counterparts that they are speaking with split tongues. Deceitful and manipulative. It is sad to see that Fulbright is still having that General Custer attitude.

Alice © 2012

A letter to the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program.

Today I have send the following email to the Fulbright Program. In astounishment after reading an article of some time ago that was published in an American newspaper about a scholar who was granted a scholarship to go studying Gross National Happiness in Bhutan.

This is the link to the article in the Portland Herald and before that published in the Sentinel.
This is of course the link to the article written by Kai Bird in The Nation.

Dear Fulbright people,

today I’ve read this article in The Portland Press Herald concerning a scholarship for a study by Mrs. Gretchen Lechler who plans to travel to Bhutan to study Gross National Happiness:
I am amazed and quite honestly astounded by this.
Because yesterday I read this article by Pulitzer Price winner Kai Bird about the Bhutanese diaspora and the cost of that for the US, the international community, Bhutan and the Bhutanese refugees:
I have personally spend six months in 2011 in Nepal to work on the first feature length documentary about the Bhutanese exile and the third country resettlement project of the UNHCR and it’s effects. So I know very well the reality of Bhutan. By experience.
It is totally flabagasting to see a US government funded organization to spend a load of money on a scholarship for studying the myth of Gross National Happiness in a country that is in reality percentagewise the largest ethnic cleansing country in recent history. Especially since it is the same US government that has started the resettlement effort on request of the UNHCR and is actually welcoming over 60,000 Bhutanese refugees to become US citizens.
This scholarship is a disgrace, as is this study that Mrs. Lechler is undertaking. There is no way that Gross National Happiness can be objectively studied without extensive visiting of the Bhutanese refugee camps and realizing that a large portion of the Bhutanese people is all but happy.
I sincerely request your organization to think again because by this scholarship Fulbright is actually passively supporting human rights violations. And preferably, to request Mrs. Lechler to study GNH in the Bhutanese community in exile. To do that she doesn’t even have to leave the US. If needed I can provide all relevent contacts for that and am more than willing to assist in any possible way.
With kind regards,
Alice Verheij
writer, film maker, journalist
The Hague, Netherlands / Kathmandu, Nepal
Alice © 2012

The Party for Happiness / Partij voor Geluk

UPDATE: The ‘Partij voor Geluk‘ has removed their link to Bhutan as a guiding country for Gross National Happiness in response to the comments made by me. Which is a good thing and I welcome that! I wish this new party all the best in their endeavors. Obviously it is important that the myth of Bhutan as a hallmark for happiness is dismantled and the human rights violations by Bhutan are recognized and acknowledged.

A new political party is coming to the Dutch politcal arena. As a counter movement to the current development of Dutch (or even western) society. The Party for Happiness, in Dutch ‘Partij voor Geluk’ (www.partijvoorgeluk.nl). How nice.

A Party for Happiness, what a great initiative don’t you think? Because, to be honest, everything in this world is judged in financial economical terms like Gross National Product (GNP) meaning money, the filth of the earth. And there is another option like the one that this PvG suggest. Just look at Bhutan they say. Bhutan the buddhist Himalayan kingdom where Gross National Happiness is the measure for government success, Bhutan where the people are happy and Bhutan where according to it’s prime minister Mr. Thinley ‘even the dogs smile’…

But is that true? How are things concerning Gross National Happiness in Bhutan really? Is Bhutan really that happy conutry and does the United Nations indeed push them forward as an example, as a guiding nation for the world?

The answer my friend, is blowing in the Himalayan wind. And it simply says: no. Not at all. Bhutan is not an overly happy country and although the dogs might smile, many of it’s people certainly don’t. Bhutan is the only 100% Bhuddist ruled country in the world. A country that in the years 1990 – 1992 exiled some 120,000 of it’s citizens to India and in the end to refugee camps in Nepal where they have lived ever since. Almost 20% of the Bhutanese population now live outside the country in global diaspora since the United Nations started mass third country resettlement in 2007 shifting almost all of these refugees to countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the UK and the Netherlands. Bhutan as a nation is responsible for the percentagewise largest ethnic and cultural cleansing since world war two. Hardly a nation to set an example to the world.

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan is according to the latest results certainly not all over. Things like health care and education are experienced as factors making the mostly rural population less than happy. According to Bhutan’s own annual GNH report that was recently published. Bhutan does not have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of travel, freedom to speak Nepali, freedom to dress to your own desire, freedom to smoke a cigarette… Bhutan does however have over 400 political prisoners (according to sources like Human Rights Watch), it throws monks in jail for carrying 30 grams of tobacco on them and has been denying international requests to repatriate it’s own people to the south and east of the country. Bhutan sabotaged 19 years of talks with the Nepalese government for repatriation, lies structurally to the refugees, the international community and the press about their willingness to take their people back and Bhutan remains a country as closed to the outside world as North Korea. If you live in Bhutan and oppose the government you can be thrown into jail, be tortured (Bhutan has the doubtful reputation of a great inventor of torture methods), thrown into exile or even get killed.

Over the past decades the Human Rights Evaluations by the United Nations on Bhutan have repeatedly shown many comments from countries like the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands and others on the situation concerning the exiled population now living in the refugee camps in Nepal with already half of them resettled in the largest third country resettlement project of the UNHCR ever. Continuous reporting by organizations like Human Rights Watch and Global Human Rights Defence have made clear that Bhutan is not a country of Gross National Happiness but a country of Gross Human Rights Violations.

It’s sad to see that western society has a very biased and uninformed view of the Bhutanese reality. Bhutan has been able (and has been given ample space to do so) to build an effective reality distortion field around it’s atrocities. That reality distortion field has a name: Gross National Happiness. As a concept welcomed by Buddhists and politicians globally. It is because of that western urge to be inspired by something nice as ‘happiness’ that helps Bhutan in covering up the reality and trying to change history. Using that concept is very much like taking king Herod’s approach to an unwelcome reality: washing hands in innocence while allowing human rights violations to continue.

Not quite a good start for a political party I suppose.

If you want to know more about the reality of Bhutan and the situation of the Bhutanese exiles surf to http://www.headwindfilm.com, watch the trailer of the upcoming documentary and read my essay about the topic.

© 2012 Alice Verheij
writer, film maker, journalist
director of Headwind
Friend of Bhutan Media Society

Politiek gevangenen in Bhutan.

Den Haag, 7 december 2010. Over drie dagen is het Internationale Mensenrechtendag. Vandaag is Julian Assange gearresteerd na een politieke klopjacht maar daar gaat dit artikel niet over.

Vandaag is door een vertegenwoordiging van de Bhutaanse gemeenschap in Nederland een petitie aangeboden aan de vast kamercommissie Buitenlandse zaken. De commissie was goed vertegenwoordigt met onder andere Kathleen Ferrier als commissie-woordvoerder Harry van Bommel. Zowel Nebahat Albayrak (voorzitter, PvdA) als Alexander Pechtold (ondervoorzitter, D66) waren jammer genoeg verhinderd maar wel waren er leden van de SP, het CDA, D66 en de VVD zodat het wel zeker is dat de aangeboden petitie in de diverse fracties aan de orde zal komen. Niet aanwezig waren organisaties als Amnesty International of Human Rights Watch noch hebben zij bereidheid getoond hun gezicht te laten zien. Amnesty omdat ze het te druk hebben en Human Rights Watch omdat het niet past in hun aanpak, zij doen wel gericht onderzoek naar de situatie en publiceren daar ook regelmatig over. Wel is de kleine Global Human Rights Defence met de zaak ‘Bhutan‘ bezig. Zij zullen op 10 december bij het Europees Parlement in Brussel hun opwachting maken.


Deel van de petitie van BCN mbt Bhutan.

In de petitie vragen de vluchtelingen uit Bhutan de aandacht voor de mensenrechtenschendingen in hun land van herkomst. Daarbij richten ze zich met name op de tientallen politieke gevangenen die voor onbetaalde zitten opgesloten onder mensonwaardige omstadigheden én de onderdrukking door de regering van Bhutan van een groot deel van de eigen bevolking dat nu al weer twintig jaar geleden tot een exodus van ruim 130.000 (overwegend Hindoeïstische) inwoners van Zuid-Bhutan heeft geleid. De overgrote meerderheid van hen leeft na al die jaren nog steeds in één van de zeven opvangkampen van de UNHCR of ergens in India of Nepal. Allen leiden zij een marginaal bestaan zonder uitzicht op een betere toekomst en zonder uitzicht op terugkeer naar de dorpen waar ze opgroeiden en waar generaties van hun hun etnische groep geleefd heeft. Hun huizen zijn verpand of verbrand, hun gronden weggeven aan anderen en hun burgerrechten zijn hun ontstolen door het ogenschijnlijk zo menslievende en vreedzame land aan de voet van Himalaya.

Slechte een klein aantal van deze mensen heeft als vluchteling een plaats gekregen in een land in het westen waarbij de V.S. de meeste van deze vluchtelingen opgenomen heeft en nog gaat opnemen. Over enkele jaren zullen de vluchtelingenkampen grotendeels leeggestroomd zijn naar het weste. Andere Aziatische landen nemen deze mensen niet op en dus zijn zij afhankelijk van de welwillendheid van het westen. Diegenen die het geluk treft dat zij een nieuw thuis vinden zijn dankbaar en laten dat merken door met veel energie hun nieuwe bestaan op te bouwen. Zij ervaren zichzelf als de gelukkigen die een tweede leven hebben mogen opbouwen.

Met het aanbieden van de petitie, die de nodige media-aandacht krijgt, nemen de individuele leden van deze groep een persoonlijk risico. Het zal immers niet de eerste keer zijn dat hun familie voor zover die nog in dat land woont slachtoffer wordt van vervolging en intimidatie.

Nederland is net als veel andere westerse landen een financiële donor van het regiem in Bhutan. In het geval van Nederland gaat het daarbij om herbebossingsprojecten waarbij land dat dreigt te eroderen wordt herbebost. Dat gebeurt in het kader van ecologische ontwikkelings samenwerking en CO2-reductie, immers herbebossing door Nederland gefinancierd wordt afgeboekt op de negatieve CO2-rekening die Nederland heeft. Daarmee heeft ons land een belang in een stabiel Bhutan, net als een flink aantal andere westerse landen. Daarnaast heeft een deel van de intellectuele laag in ons land het idee van ‘Bruto Nationaal Geluk’ zoals door de vorige koning van Bhutan geïntroduceerd als maatstaf voor welzijn omarmt. Bhutan wordt daarbij als voorbeeld gezien van uniek een land dat zicht richt op het geluk van haar inwoners. Dat daarbij niet gekeken wordt naar de inwoners uit Zuid-Bhutan en Oost-Bhutan heeft vooral te maken met desinformatie en onwetendheid. In dat kader is het van belang dat de aanmerkelijk grimmiger werkelijkheid van Bhutan zichtbaar wordt. Ook al is die intmaskering een desillusionerende werkelijkheid die de ballon van het Shangri-La doorprikt.

De petitie van de BCN (Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands) is hier te lezen: petition bhutan

Alice Verheij © 2010